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31 July 2020 18:37

Evgeny Lebedev Boris Johnson Jo Johnson

Director who first made his mark in the 1970s and had later hits including Fame and The Commitments, became the chair of the UK Film Council Alan Parker, the British director behind a string of hits including Midnight Express, Bugsy Malone, and The Commitments, has died aged 76. Parker, who was born in 1944 in Islington, London, first made his name in the advertising industry, getting a job as a postroom boy after leaving school and eventually establishing himself as a director. However, along with a clutch of contemporaries such as Adrian Lyne and Ridley and Tony Scott, he had ambitions for the big screen and, after the TV film The Evacuees (scripted by Jack Rosenthal), he made his feature film debut with Bugsy Malone – an project that he would later tell the Guardian was "a ludicrous idea that really ought not to work". Starring Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, Bugsy Malone was a gangster film featuring kids throwing shaving foam pies and shooting "splurge guns"; it got Hollywood's attention, and he was hired to direct the Oliver Stone scripted Midnight Express, which garnered Parker an Oscar nomination for its high impact depiction of an American incarcerated in Turkey after being arrested for drug smuggling. In the same year, 1982, Parker released Pink Floyd – The Wall, which starred Bob Geldof in a surreal feature film realisation of the hit Pink Floyd album.

Parker returned to Hollywood with the Vietnam war drama Birdy (1984), which starred Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage; after that came the cult thriller Angel Heart (featuring Robert de Niro as the satanic Louis Cyphre), and civil rights thriller Mississippi Burning (1988) for which he received a second best director Oscar nomination. In 1996 he directed Madonna in a film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical Evita, and subsequently adapted Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes, with Emily Watson in the lead role. Towards the end of the 1990s, Parker unexpectedly emerged as the leading figure in the British film establishment: he was appointed chairman of the British Film Institute (BFI) in 1998 and two years later became the first chairman of the newly formed UK Film Council, which distributed lottery money to the newly resurgent British film industry. In his later years, Parker turned to painting, telling the Observer: "I was very lucky to find such a creative outlet so late in life … and quite separate to my day job as a director. Filmmaker Alan Parker, a towering figure in the UK industry, died Friday morning following a lengthy illness, the British Film Institute has confirmed.

Two-time Oscar nominee Parker was best known for directing classic films including Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning, Fame, Bugsy Malone and The Commitments, as well as big-budget Madonna movie Evita. Across a glittering career, his feature films combined to win 19 BAFTA awards, 10 Golden Globes and 10 Oscars. In 1974, he moved into longform drama when he directed BBC film The Evacuees, written by Jack Rosenthal, which won the International Emmy Award and a BAFTA Award for direction; the first of Parker's seven BAFTAs. Parker wrote and directed his first feature film, Bugsy Malone, in 1975. Parker's second film was the hugely successful and controversial Midnight Express (1977) which won two Oscars and six Academy Award nominations, including for Parker as Best Director. The film received six Golden Globe Awards and four BAFTA awards, including Best Screenplay for Parker. This was followed in 1979 by Fame, a joyful and diverse celebration of youthful ambition in the arts, which won two Academy Awards, six nominations, four Golden Globe nominations and later was adapted into a long-running television series. In 1981 Parker directed the powerful family drama Shoot the Moon, starring Diane Keaton and Albert Finney. That same year he also directed the seminal Pink Floyd – The Wall, the feature film adaptation of the best-selling rock albums of all time. In 1984, Parker directed Birdy, based on the William Wharton novel and starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine. In 1988 Parker directed the civil rights drama Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Director for Parker and winning for Best Cinematography. A year later, he would make The Commitments, the story of a young, working-class Irish soul band, which was awarded a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Picture and won Parker the Best Director prize at the Tokyo Film Festival, as well as BAFTA film awards for Editing, Screenplay, Director and Best Picture. In 1993, Parker wrote and directed comedy-drama, The Road to Wellville, based on the novel by T. In 1996, he garnered plenty of global headlines when he directed, wrote and produced Evita, based on the Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. The much-discussed film won three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture. In 1999 Parker wrote and directed Angela's Ashes based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling memoir by Frank McCourt, starring Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle. Parker also authored the best-selling novel written from his own screenplay of Bugsy Malone, published by HarperCollins. In 1998 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Great Britain and the Lumiere Medal from the Royal Photographic Society.